Preserving Rainbow Region history

A poster promoting the Aquarius Festival in Nimbin.

A collection of documents and memorabilia that charts the 1973 Aquarius Festival and its subsequent influence on the Northern Rivers region has received a grant from the National Library for its preservation.

The Aquarian Archive includes thousands of documents including films, audio tapes, banners and memorabilia. It is run by volunteers and currently stored in the basement of the library at Southern Cross University.

According to the archives public officer, Graham Irvine, the collection documents the ripple effect the festival has had on the Rainbow Region. From the migration of the new settlers and their experiments with ways of sharing land and living communally to gardening and building techniques. It also records their influence on fashion, music and the arts in the region, and includes an extensive record of the environmental movement in the region, particularly campaigns to save significant areas of forest.

Mr Irvine said a report by the regional museums development officer found the collection to be of national significance.

They then applied to the National Librarys Cultural Heritage fund and late last year were awarded $4950 to employ a conservator who will survey the collection and make recommendations as to the best way to preserve certain items.

A lot of the archive is paper based and is not on acid free paper so it is yellowing, Mr Irvine said. Some of it is at a critical stage so we need professional advice on how to preserve it.

Mr Irvine also travelled to Canberra, where he took part in two days of workshops on archiving.

He is hoping the conservators work can be done within a couple of months and they will then look at applying for further funding to help implement the recommendations.

At the moment people can only access the material at SCU if they are supervised by a member of the Aquarian Archive group. However they are hoping to find a permanent home for the collection as part of a new development on the site of the original Aquarius Festival in Nimbin.

A subdivision of the old site has allowed for 10 lots of vacant land to be sold, but developer John Callanan is eventually hoping to have a masterplan approved for about 100 lots.

Mr Irvine said there had been positive discussions with Mr Callanan, who had asked them to come back with a reasonable proposition to include a home for the archive within the development.

Were not trying to compete with the museum in Nimbin, but that is what were working towards, Mr Irvine said.

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